The Biscuit Tin: Is your IT a system or a jumble?
When is your IT infrastructure support like a biscuit tin?
Well, open up a biscuit tin, and what could you find? There might be some biscuits still, though chances are they’re past their sell-by date. A lot of the time the tin is full of paper scraps, buttons, sewing kits, bolts, screws, and some string. Do you need them all? Maybe. Do they make sense together? Probably not. Are they working as one? Definitely not.
In many cases that’s just like a business’s IT Infrastructure support — a jumble of programmes that don’t form a coherent system or that just aren’t as good as they used to be. You might well need each one, but do they complement each other or make sense together? Not really.
As businesses grow, they often add new pieces of software, but they do it ad hoc without an overall strategy. They then end up with IT support that functions most of the time, but doesn’t work very efficiently and easily goes wrong.
We spoke to Pete Holt of Universal Site Supplies, and he told us about the transformation in their IT Infrastructure support and the difference it made to the business.
“Everything on the IT side used to be done on a bit of a shoestring budget. As a lot of people do, I decided to do something about it only after something went wrong. We had two occasions when our computers were down for the day, and that cost us about £20,000 in new business each time. Obviously, we couldn’t afford to have days like that when we miss enquiries, because by the time you’ve got everything up and running again, the customer has found a different supplier.
We asked Arc to have a look and they said, ‘You’re not a one-man-band anymore, you’re an SME. What you’ve got in place is fit for two or three people, not a team of 20.’
The first thing we needed was our own dedicated line and new server, because the bandwidth couldn’t support us anymore and that was causing problems. We put in that dedicated line and a backup line, so not we’ve got really good speeds for a business that’s really rural.
They also got our PCs up to speed, and top to bottom they put a good, stable system in place.
Not only is it fit for purpose, but there’s also always a little bit of room to grow, so we’re not bursting at the seams all the time.”
“The other thing as you grow is you need to be able to add new users as your team gets bigger. Obviously preparing all of that means another licence on the software. We’re building a bigger sales team at the moment, so there’s a new PC and new profiles for all of the software we use. OK, that’s fairly straightforward if you’re Arc, but for us that would be hours of our time trying to work out what to do.
Though the biggest difference on the software side, is having a platform that can not only handle 20 or 30 people using it at once. You also need someone who can tell you when to upgrade, or when you just need to do a bit of ‘cleaning’ — things might be slow and you might decide you need an upgrade but actually you just need to get rid of old files that are cluttering up your servers. Things like that make everything run smoother, and they stop you sending money that you don’t need to.”
“One of the times the system went down it was because of a virus in our system, but we were none the wiser. And it took a lot of unravelling to work out what was going on. That one was bad — it just went everywhere and it just wiped everything out.
From a security point of view the best compliment I can pay Arc Systems is that I don’t have to talk to them about it. We have a system now that we’ve been using for five years. It recognises when something is out of your usual pattern, and it will flag anything that looks suspicious, so there just aren’t as many ways for things like viruses to get through.
Plus, we know there’s a backup system, so if things did go wrong we’d be up and running almost straight away. It’s comforting.”
“When there were just three or four of us, we had one guy who handled all of our IT Infrastructure support stuff and he was brilliant. We got bigger, though, and he wasn’t able to keep on top of all of the questions and problems that we started having. Now we’ve got people who can come deal with the issue in an hour or two, when we were used to waiting days.
For me, the biggest thing is this. I’m not an IT guy, so I want things in layman’s terms. If I don’t understand something, I can ask, and Arc will explain it to me in a way that I understand, but as I say, the biggest compliment I can give them is that I don’t need to talk to them — things just work.